Benefit cuts: Wealthier pensioners face losing winter fuel allowance and free television licence, says George Osborne

 

Better-off pensioners face losing benefits such as winter fuel allowances and free television licences after George Osborne said the country needed to look at whether they could still be afforded.

All three main parties are now reviewing the future of universal hand-outs for older people amid suggestions that over-65s have been sheltered from the pain of austerity measures in recent years.

David Cameron pledged during the 2010 general election campaign that pensioner benefits would be safeguarded over the lifetime of the parliament, which ends in 2015.

But his Chancellor refused in an interview with BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show to extend the commitment to cover the years after the next election as he acknowledged that universal benefits would have to be reviewed.

He said: “When it comes to pensions and pensioner benefits, our society is getting older, we’re going to be spending more on our older people. I want to make sure that is sustainable.”

Mr Osborne said the best way to bear down on the costs of an ageing population was to raise the state pension age, which is due to rise to 66 in 2020 and to 67 in 2028.

He stressed the value of the state pension would be protected, but added: “All those other pensioners’ benefits – yes, of course, we’ve got to look at how we can afford them.”

The cost of the winter fuel allowance – £200 for homes with someone aged 61 or over, increasing to £300 for a household with an over-80 – is more than £2bn.

All homes with someone over the age of 75 are entitled to a free licence at a cost of about £600m, while the cost of free bus travel for pensioners is estimated at more than £1bn.

Restricting winter fuel payments and free TV licences to claimants on pension credit could save around £1.4bn a year while taxing the benefits would raise about £250m.

Nick Clegg has questioned why “millionaire” pensioners should carry on receiving universal benefits and has been backed by Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative Work and Pensions Secretary, who has also suggested wealthier pensioners give back their money.

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, said this year that the principle of universal benefits for older people “needs to be looked at”, while Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, recently committed the party to saving £100m a year by scrapping winter fuel payments for higher and top rate taxpayers.

Any such moves are politically tricky as the over-65s vote in larger numbers than any age group and any government that scaled back on their benefits would risk a backlash at the ballot box.

Mr Cameron has repeatedly said he will keep his promise not to trim pensioners’ benefits during the course of this parliament. Aides have admitted that backtracking on that pledge would haunt him, saying it would be similar to Nick Clegg’s change of heart of university tuition fees.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...